Tag Archives: Stellenbosch Wine Festival

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 10 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Los Angeles Times recommends the One&Only Cape Town as one of ‘Five fabulous, flirty retreats for Valentine’s Day’.   It describes Cape Town as the ‘…continent’s hottest happening city, and One & Only is the place to be for luxurious lodging‘, with three restaurants, including Nobu, the Neo boutique selling ‘South Africa’s hippest designer fashions‘, and an award-winning spa.  It recommends eating at The Test Kitchen, Kalk Bay, Robben Island, and an art tour with gallery owner João Ferreira.

*  It is rare to be able to read a story by UK wine journalist and judge Jancis Robinson without subscribing to her website or to that of the Financial Times. However she has graciously shared details of her trip to the North West Cape, in the Olifants River area, where they viewed 40 – Continue reading →

Stellenbosch squeezes most out of its 2015 Wine Festival, poor website!

Stellenbosch Wine FestivalBilled as a three-day event but stretching over a week, the Stellenbosch Wine Festival presented by Pick ‘n Pay draws to a close today, with a feast of events offered.  It is the largest wine festival in the country, and the oldest.  The media blurb proudly brags that the Stellenbosch Wine Festival presents the best of Stellenbosch’s ‘great wine, gourmet food, breathtakingly beautiful nature, and performances by some of South Africa’s most popular musicians‘.

Held at the Coetzenburg Sports Grounds since Friday, 200 wines of 148 wine estates that make up the Stellenbosch Wine Routes are available to taste, creating a ‘virtual wine route‘.  The Pick ‘n Pay Wine Shop will sell Stellenbosch wines to drink at the Festival, to take home, or to ship back to one’s home destination.   Winemakers from Waterford Estate, Spier, Kleine Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 5 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Wine judge and writer Tim James, and winner of a number of wine writing competitions, including the inaugural Du Toitskloof Wine Writer of the Year as well as the Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing award, has expressed his strongest criticism of the announcement of the 2014 Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing competition.   It has been announced that the competition and its prize money will be split into short writing (less than 1500 words) and long writing (3000 – 4000 words).  No award will be given to any writing submitted of between 1500 – 3000 words!  Earlier this year the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and the convenor of its wine writing judging committee John Maytham, were lambasted when they chose to not award the prize at all, stating that no entry was of a good enough standard. (Note: the category definitions have subsequently been changed to under 1000 words, and 1000 – 4000 words)

*   Only 8% of South African tourism and hospitality businesses plan to appoint more staff, according to tourism consultants Grant Thornton, compared to 25% by their global counterparts.

*   South African restaurant brands operating in the United Arab Emirates include Nando’s, Butcher Shop, Meat & Co, Mug & Bean, and Debonairs Pizza.

*   Argentina is encouraging its citizens to stay home with a punitive 35% tax on all credit card payments made outside the country, to protect its monetary reserves.

*   The Stellenbosch Wine Festival will take place from 24 January – 2 Continue reading →

Oldenburg Vineyards paired with Institute of Culinary Arts at Stellenbosch Wine Festival Summer Soiree!

On Friday I attended the Summer Soiree gourmet evening as a guest of Raymond Noppe, Oldenburg Vineyards Regional Sales Manager: Sub-Sahara, as part of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival program.  The gourmet delights were prepared by three talented graduates (in March) of the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA), which is based just down the road in the Banhoek valley.  Guests attending paid R450 per head.

The tables were beautifully set, with glass bowls of proteas, which are grown in the valley, and dry ice, which came to effect when we sat down for the dinner, creating steam when the hostesses from the Alheit Academy poured water over it.  Oldenburg Wines does not have a restaurant, so the dinner was even more special as it was a one of a kind.  On arrival we were offered a glass of Simonsig MCC, sparkling wines not forming part of the Oldenburg repertoire yet.

The menu leaflets provided background to the two pairing partners.  Oldenburg Vineyards is a premium boutique winery which produces small quantities of wines, its vineyards being managed to the full potential of their terroir.

The ICA was established eighteen years ago by Letitia Prinsloo, and has trained many of our country’s top chefs, including Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet, and Simone Rossouw of Babel. It is deemed to be one of the best restaurant and chef training schools in the country.  The course covers Advanced Cooking & Pâtisserie, business development, food theatre, research and marketing, product development, media communication, artistry, food science, and wine. Third year students have to prepare a business plan for a new or relaunched fine-dining restaurant.  The focus of the chef training is the ‘global trend of molecular gastronomy’. Food science is an important subject to help the students understand the growing international gourmet trend to modernist cuisine. The dishes we were served were some of the dishes prepared for the final practicals by three ICA graduates, the students’ practical work being evaluated by the likes of Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff, The Tasting Room chef Margot Janse, as well as food journalists.

The ICA works closely with the Alheit Academy, a relationship of four years seeing the ICA training front of house service staff about cooking, wines, front of house, and more, the students receiving a City & Guilds certificate after three years of study.

I missed the first canapé of ‘Olive T(h)ree’, which was served as thin layers of olive oil biscuit topped with olive tapenade, and olive oil sugar bells on olive soil, which was paired with my favourite Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009. All three the canapés were prepared by Inne-Marie Rabie, who started working at Rooi Rose after graduating at the ICA at the end of last year, working with Food Editor Vickie de Beer in doing research for a new book, I was told by Laetitia.  Inne-Marie’s dill and garlic Beef Tartare was served en croute, finished off with a deep fried quail egg, and a garlic and caper foam, which was paired with the Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  Raymond told us that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the estate, and is a ‘powerful wine’ matured for 12 months in 300 litre barrels, to reduce the oak influence.  It is a big wine, with a higher alcohol content of 14,5%, which they are increasing to 15%.  The wine has notes of cedar wood, pencil shavings, black currant, and cassis.  The third canapé was Vanilla poached pork belly, which was served with a pear purée, and finished off with a rosewater praline, paired with Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. The Chardonnay grapes will be the first to be picked at Oldenburg, the harvest commencing this week, and the wine is matured for 11 months.  The wine was described as having ‘wooden butteriness‘, creamy vanilla, white pear and peach notes, as well as citrus aromas.  It was scored by Robert Parker at 93.

The amuse bouche was a jasmine poached Scented Salmon served with pickled cucumber, crackling crumble, and pancetta shard, finished off with a cucumber foam and granadilla sauce. This dish was prepared by Monché Muller, who already has a column in Taste magazine, and now works at The Test Kitchen.

Inne-Marie prepared the Exotic Mushrooms dish, tagliatelle served on a mushroom cream and sautéed wild mushrooms, with potato soil and garlic roasted walnuts.  The dish was also paired with the Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011.   Monché returned to present her ‘Homebrew Kudu Loin’, which had been marinated in coffee mud, and was served with cauliflower risotto, roasted lemon chutney, kale pesto, and marinated baby brinjals, which she finished off with a pine nut crust and a stout sauce.  This dish was paired with the very smooth Oldenburg Syrah 2009, which was matured in oak for 15 months, and has coffee and mocha tones. Raymond described it as being ‘plush‘, having soft tannins, and offering good drinkability.  We laughed when he said that it has won no awards yet it is their largest seller.

The Oldenburg Vineyards pricing policy is to charge at two price points only: R118 for their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and R 182 for their Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.  Later this year Oldenburg is introducing Rhodium, which Raymond summarised as follows: “Rhodium is a chemical element that is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. It has the chemical symbol Rh and atomic number 45, and is one of the “noble metals.   Our first release will be the 2010 vintage, and will consist of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The blend proportions and varietals used for the 2011 vintage was substantially different, although Cabernet Franc will always be the backbone and biggest contributor.  We plan to release it within the next 2 months, and it should sell for around R330/bottle. Each bottle will be individually wrapped and packed in its own specially printed box.  We are hoping that this new premium offering will live up to its name of being noble in all respects and help to establish us further as one of the top premium producers in South Africa.”

Dorothy, the maternal grandmother of Oldenburg Vineyards’ owner Adrian van der Spuy came to South Africa in the ‘Fifties, and met Helmut Hohmann, the owner of the Ivy Knowe farm, over the neighbouring fence, so to speak.  He bought the neighbouring Rondekop farm on auction in 1955, consolidated it with his existing farm, and changed the name of the two farms to Oldenburg, after his hometown in Germany. They planted deciduous fruit originally in the ‘Sixties, and then added grapes, with were sold to SFW and to the KWV initially.  The farm was placed in a trust by Van der Spuy’s grandmother when Hohmann died, which Van der Spuy bought out of the trust in 2003.  Simon Thompson is the viticulturist at Oldenburg, and also its winemaker.  The first wines were made in 2007.  The Oldenburg wines are made at Glenelly presently, but an Oldenburg cellar is on the cards in the next five years.  (Van der Spuy’s paternal grandmother is the late Una van der Spuy, who was a well-known landscaper, and lived at Old Nectar in Stellenbosch).

The highlight dish of the evening was Nico Meyer’s Southern Reef, a marine-inspired dessert, with a coral made from ginger and chocolate, which was served in an oyster shaped chocolate shell in which a chai tea sphere was placed, for one to sip off the shell as one would an oyster, releasing a burst of flavour once in one’s mouth. The dessert creation was placed on flavoured soil, with foam, to complete the marine theme. Each guest had the choice of pairing the dessert with Oldenburg’s Chenin Blanc 2011 or Merlot 2010.  The Merlot 2010 maiden vintage has just been launched by Oldenburg.  Nico now works at Apprentice, the ICA restaurant in Stellenbosch, and is their head chef. The dessert was followed by friandise of chocolate fondant, baklava, and melon coated in mint jelly, served with coffee.

All three the ICA graduates were very creative, and had taken a lot of trouble to create the perfect dishes to bring out the best in the Oldenburg wines.  One certainly will get to hear more about these fledgeling chefs as they develop in their careers.   Oldenburg Vineyards and the ICA demonstrated true neighbourliness in their food and wine pairing Summer Soiree gourmet evening.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter: @OldenburgWines  Monday – Friday.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Public Relations consultants: feedback from a blogger!

Having blogged for almost three years now, we receive an increasing number of media releases from PR agencies.  Having run a food PR consultancy before starting our Whale Cottage Portfolio, I have long wanted to write a blogpost about how we view PR consultancies, and the recent Mail & Guardian article, pitting food journalists against bloggers, and detailing how PR consultancies have to deal with the blogging politics, has been a further inspiration to do so.

Our observations are as follows:

1.  As the representative of the client, we are surprised about the spelling and grammatical errors that we see in media releases sent by PR consultancies.  One would expect clients to sign off media releases, and they too do not seem to pick up the errors.

2.  In the era of social media, everyone knows where bloggers are, as they like to Tweet about it.  One of the biggest problems this causes is that bloggers know when they have been left off the invitation list for a lunch or launch, without explanation or warning.  While one understands that not everyone can be invited to all functions, there is an automatic affront if one is left off such a list, and one picks up from Twitter who is present.  This is a minefield for PR consultants.  One would think that they would rather host a small number of events with bloggers and journalists who tolerate the presence of others than invite all of them to one function. To be sent the media release about the restaurant/product after the lunch that one has not been invited to is adding insult to injury!  No PR consultancy should pander to blogger or journalist egos in dictating who they want/don’t want to be in a room with at a function! 

3.  My biggest issue with PR agencies is their inability to say ‘thank you’ when one has written about their clients’ brand, whether it results from an invitation to attend a function, or is a spontaneous visit to a restaurant and it receives a good review.  Not saying thank you for coverage received is as rude as a blogger/journalist not thanking the host and PR agency for the invitation!  As a blogger we are spending our own money and time to evaluate a restaurant or product, and are not remunerated for this by an employer.  In the pre-Social Media days, our PR company subscribed to an agency that tracked all coverage we achieved for our clients, especially in print.  It was difficult in those days to track TV and radio mentions.  To pick up Social Media mentions, one can subscribe to Blogs that one expects coverage from and to whom one sends releases, check Hootsuite for mentions on Twitter (via keywords reflecting the clients’ names/brands), and via Google Alerts for the client name/brand.  One should not have to write the PR agency’s Twitter handle into the Tweet linked to the blogpost about a restaurant/product, for the agency and/or its client to pick up the coverage.  Blogging has an important role in gaining awareness for a new brand/restaurant, and bloggers with high readership can get the product/restaurant onto the first page of Google, the ultimate goal for any brand, with resultant financial benefit if it leads to bookings.  We rarely receive feedback about the business that is created for the restaurants we write about.  An exception has been De Huguenot, which is tracking via Google Analytics where its website traffic is coming from, and could tell us how many hits it had received from our write-up about their launch lunch.  An absolute no-no is a PR consultancy requesting that one informs them when the blogpost about their client’s brand has been published!

4.  What is surprising is how few PR consultancy staff appear to read the Blogs they send media releases to, firstly in not picking up the coverage their clients’ brands achieve, but also in asking for coverage in our ‘events diary’, something we don’t have.  This means that everyone on the media list receives the same release and request for coverage, making the PR consultancy look unprofessional in not understanding the bloggers’ writing interests (we are all diferent), and the media release will be deleted as a result.  One cannot help but think that media consultants are still old-school, valuing print coverage more than coverage in blogs.  Part of the problem is the valuation of the coverage, the measure PR consultancies use to prove to their clients how good they are, and what the coverage achieved would have translated into in advertising Rands.  There is no official public information about the readership of an individual blogpost, or even of a Blog, or a means of placing a value on this readership, making it appear that blog exposure is a secondary achievement for PR consultants compared to print coverage, even if the blogpost achieves an excellent Google ranking, and therefore could be far more beneficial to the client’s brand and its sales.  There is also no quantification of the value of the immediacy of coverage in a Blog compared to that in a magazine three to four months later. 

5.  While we appreciate receiving information that can help us write an interesting story on our Blog, we don’t want to receive information that has been sent to every other journalist and blogger.  Only one PR agency, representing the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, took time to request which angle I wanted to write about.  In the end I chose my own perspective on it.  However, background information on a brand launched at a function to which one is invited helps in writing the blogpost, as one can add the personal individual touch from one what one has learnt at the function itself.  An exclusive angle is great, but these are seldom seen.  Reuben Riffel’s visit to America  earlier this year, and his appearances on TV there, was an exclusive story we were given by Manley Communications. 

6.  Another sign of the lack of understanding by PR consultancies is being sent high resolution photographs, which slow down the download, and are unusable on a Blog.  Bloggers prefer using their own photographs, and would not want to use those that every other blogger and journalist have been sent.

7.  While we sometimes fear that we will run out of things to write about, there is not such a dearth of material that we have to be flooded with media releases. One wine client PR agency sends a media release almost daily, and they look boring, and have minimal news in them, and are without attractive ‘packaging’ of the release, to entice one to read it.  I am unable to write about a wine or a food product if I have not tasted it, and the fewest PR agencies send one a product to evaluate.  I would never write about a product that I have not experienced, events being an exception.  This does not mean that I feel I have to write something positive because I received the product for free – I may choose to not write about it if it is not exceptional, or if the story does not have an interesting angle.  The worst thing that the staff of a PR consultancy can do is to chase coverage.  There are no coverage guarantees in journalism and blogging.

8.  While branded CD’s look attractive and professional, I far prefer a printed media release, to write from.  An attractive interesting media release is preferable to a bland and boring one, for obvious reasons.  But the release should be printable, and one should be able to read communication between the two parties, if it is against a dark background.

9.  Bloggers do not know all other bloggers or journalists, and it would be really nice to have name tags at events hosted by PR consultancies, with an introduction to those we may not know.  I rarely see this at functions.  PR consultancies may not realise that the acceptance of an invitation to an event may be more about meeting other bloggers (an ever-growing band), and less about the meal!  

10.  We would like to be updated on changes happening at restaurants, such as changed names, changed opening hours, winter specials offered, changes in chefs and restaurant management, etc.  This may not justify a media release, but an e-mail would be appreciated, so that one can update one’s blogpost.

11.   Last, but not least, a free lunch cannot ‘buy’ most bloggers!   I have been questioned about the degree of feedback one can give about an event if one has been invited to it, some feeling it rude to provide criticism of an invited event.  This is a difficult question, but if the blogger is known to be honest in writing, then one would expect that person to write about the event with warts and all. There is no greater compliment when one’s feedback has led to a positive change.  Many critical commenters on blogs question the credibility of write-ups based on lunch/dinner invitations.  Any blogger with ethics will declare that a complimentary product/meal was received .

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Stellenbosch Wine Route turns 40, celebrates with most excellent restaurants in SA on Stellenbosch Restaurant Route!

The pioneering Stellenbosch Wine Route, founded in 1971 by winemakers Frans Malan of Simonsig, Neil Joubert of Spier, and Spatz Sperling of Delheim, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an extensive wine and food feast and fest from 28 – 31 July.  The Route has established itself not only as one with the largest number of outstanding wine farms of the 18 wine routes in the country, representing 18% of all vines planted in South Africa, but also with the largest collection of outstanding restaurants in South Africa, Stellenbosch now wearing the Gourmet Capital crown.

The trio which established the Stellenbosch Wine Route was inspired by the wine route Routes de Vins at Morey St Denis in Burgundy, the late Frans Malan and Neil Joubert returning from their 1969 trip and connecting with Spatz Sperling to establish the Stellenbosch Wine Route, the first wine tourism activity in our country.  I was delighted to meet Spatz Sperling (who celebrated his 81st birthday last week) and his wife Vera, as well as daughter Nora and son Victor on their Delheim wine farm recently.  To create the Stellenbosch Wine Route, the founding wine farmers had to overcome red tape and bureaucracy, and even had to have wine legislation rewritten to accommodate the new Stellenbosch Wine Route.  Meals were not allowed to be served at wine estates, and bottled wine could not be sold from a winery in those days.

The renamed Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes has 147 wine farms, making it the largest wine route in our country, but also is the only one to celebrate its assets with the Stellenbosch Wine Festival for the 10th year running.   Not focusing exclusively on wines, food has been added to the Festival.  Celebrity chefs from Towerbosch Earth Kitchen, The Restaurant @ Clos Malverne, The Restaurant at Waterkloof, and De Volkskombuis (the oldest restaurant in Stellenbosch) will be cooking in the Gourmet Lane at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival venue of Paul Roos Centre in Stellenbosch.  Presentations at the Clover Demo Kitchen will be done by outstanding photographer Russell Wasserfall with his wife Camilla on ‘Home Entertaining at its Best’ in conjunction with De Meye wines; by @KitchenVixen Bianca du Plessis, who reviews restaurants on the Expresso Show; by wine PRO Emile Joubert with wine writer Neil Pendock; by chef George Jardine of Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine on ‘Cheese if you Please’; and by Chef Greg Czarnecki of The Restaurant at Waterkloof, who celebrates the ‘French Connection’.

The Stellenbosch Wine Festival has been stretched out into the Stellenbosch Wine Week, which commenced on Friday, and continues until Sunday.  During the Stellenbosch Wine Week one can enjoy dinner with the Warwick family, a fundraising concert at Delheim, vertical tastings of Simonsig’s Kaapse Vonkel, vintage tastings of Scintilla Cap Classiques at the House of JC le Roux, a salt pairing with Fleur du Cap wines by Sofia chef Craig Cormack, a food and wine pairing dinner at Neethlingshof with Katinka van Niekerk, paired venison carpaccio with Vergenoegd wines, blend and bottle one’s own Cape Blend at Clos Malverene, enjoy free winetastings in the Waterkloof Tasting Room, vertical tasting of Kanonkop wines followed by a snoek braai, vintage and barrel tastings of Jan Boland Coetzee’s Vriesenhof wines, tasting with David Trafford of his De Trafford wines, taste rare Cabernet Sauvignon vintages at Le Riche, wine and venison pairing at Middelvlei, picnics at Chabivin with Champagnes and Cap Classique tastings, art-house films screened at Le Bonheur, ‘Dine and 30 Seconds’ dinners at Uitkyk, and participate in a chipping competition at Ernie Els Wines,

A new feature of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival will be a MCC Lounge, in which Simonsig Estate, which created South Africa’s first Méthode Cap Classique Kaapse Vonkel, Villiera, Mooiplaas, Longridge, Spier, and Pongrácz will be presenting their MCC’s, paired with oysters and other delicacies.

We wrote last year that the Stellenbosch Wine Route should create the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, and while they have not yet done so, we have created it on this Blog nevertheless, and in honour of the cuisine excellence in Stellenbosch, list from it the restaurants on wine farms in Stellenbosch:

Rust en Vrede – named the best restaurant in the country in 2010 by Eat Out, a slick operation, previously with talented chef David Higgs, on the Rust en Vrede wine estate.  Featured on the Eat Out Top 10 list 2009, and 2010, number 74 on 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2010 list, and Top vineyard restaurant of 2010 Great Wine Capitals in the World – read the review here.  Tel (021) 881-3881

*   Overture – Chef Bertus Basson is a hard-working re-inventor of his menu and operation, always looking to improve.   On the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list for 2009 and 2010.  Fantastic views from the location on the Hidden Valley wine estate – read the review here.  Tel (021) 880-2721

*   Terroir is a perennial on the Eat Out Top 10 list, with Chef Michael Broughton.  The outside seating on the De Kleine Zalze wine and golf estate is great for a warm day.  Tel (021) 880-8167

*   Delaire at Delaire Graff –  no money was spared in building and decorating this restaurant and winery building, and it houses a most impressive art collection.   Chef Christian Campbell is doing outstanding work and good service. Read our review here.  Tel (021) 885-8160

*   Indochine at Delaire Graff- is relatively less opulent in its interior design compared to its sister restaurant.   Young chef Jonathan Heath is a star to watch, and his Asian fusion menu is sure to attract the attention of the Eat Out Top 10 judges.   He explains the menu, and the dishes when he serves them personally.  Read our review. Tel (021) 885-8160

*   Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine –  a mouthful of a brand name but also a mouthful in value and excellent quality. Set at the end of a long road, on the Jordan wine estate, it overlooks a big pond and the beautiful Stellenbosch mountains in the far distance, teeming with birdlife.  Interior functional.  Most beautiful and unique ”bread” plate ever seen.   Read the review.  Tel (021) 881-3612

*   The Long Table Restaurant and Cafe – set at the end of a long road up a hill, above Rust en Vrede, on the Haskell Vineyards (marketers of Haskell and Dombeya wines), the food of Chef Corli Els is a wonderful surprise.  The restaurant interior and waiter service do not match the excellence of her food or the quality of the Haskell wines. The Papaya and Avo salad stands out as one of the special treats.   Read the Review. Tel (021) 881-3746

*   Warwick wine estate – owner Mike Ratcliffe is a good marketer, and his gourmet picnics are a great hit in summer.  Winter Tapas menu – read the picnic review here.  Tel (021) 884-3144

*   Tokara DeliCATessen – has a buffet lunch too, very large restaurant space combined with a deli, but service poor and food quality average – read the review here.   Tel (021) 808-5950

*   Eight at Spier – the menu was designed by Judy Badenhorst, ex-River Cafe, now running the Casa Labia Cafe in Muizenberg. Tel (021) 809-1188

Wild Peacock Food Emporium on Piet Retief Street – belongs to Sue Baker and is managed by ex-Rust en Vrede front of house manager and daughter Sarah, selling deli items, a range of cold meats, imported French and local cheese, fresh breads, and has a sit-down menu as well. Wine shop to come. Tel 082 697 0870

Pane E Vino – this food and wine bar is hidden to those who do not come to Bosman’s Crossing.  Owned by Elena Dalla Cia, husband George and father-in-law Giorgio do wine and grappa tastings in the restaurant too.  Good Italian fare. Tel (021) 883-8312

*   Bodega @Dornier – Tel (021) 880-0557

*   Cuvee Restaurant, Simonsig – interesting modernist Cape Dutch interior curation by Neil Stemmet. Impressive quality food, tableware, stemware, napery, and service.  Tel (021) 888-4932

*   Tokara – Etienne Bonthuys has left Tokara to open Casparus on Dorp Street, and Richard Carstens has stepped into the kitchen, cooking up a storm as South Africa’s Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame. Read the review. Tel (021) 808-5959.

*   Towerbosch Earth Kitchen on the Knorhoek wine estate, designed by Neil Stemmet. Lovely fairy-like setting, fantastic Boerekos feast served in bowls rather than dishing up per plate.  Read the review. Tel (021) 865-2114.

*   Johan’s at Longridge is a refreshing new restaurant on LongridgeWinery, with a focus on fresh vegetables from its large vegetable garden alongside the restaurant.  Co-owner Chef Johan comes from a Michelin two-star restaurant in Holland, as does Chef Marissa.  Attentive service led by Chris Olivier, excellent food, great wines.  Read the review.   Tel (021) 855-2004

*   Delheim restaurant – read about the visit during the Delheim Nouvelle Mushroom Week earlier this month.  Tel (021) 888-4600

*   The Table at De Meye opened in September, and won the Eat Out Best Country-Style Award in November.  It is only open for Friday. Saturday and Sunday lunches.

Stellenbosch Wine Festival, 28 – 31 July.  Paul Roos Centre, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 886-4310.    www.stellenboschwinefestival.co.za. Book www.webtickets.co.za.  Entry R120 on-line, R140 at door.  R350 for a pass for entry over the whole period of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Gourmet Food and Wine evenings will warm up winter!

One of the exciting things about winter is that a number of restaurants are offering excellent value Gourmet evenings, with top wine makers presenting their wines, paired with special dishes prepared by the chefs of the restaurants.  It is a shame that some of the dates clash.

The Pavilion at The Marine Hotel, Hermanus

6 May:   Bouchard Finlayson Winery

3 June:   Paul Cluver Wines

1 July:   Klein Constantia Wine Estate

5 August:   Creation Wines

2 September:   Hamilton Russell Vineyards & Southern Right

The 5-course dinners, paired with wines, cost R 320 per person.  Tel (028) 313-1000

The Grand Café Camps Bay

11 May:   Peter Falke Wines

15 June:   Stellekaya

13 July:   Haute Cabriere

The 3-course food and wine pairing dinner costs R300.  Tel (021) 438-4253 NOTE THAT THE RESTAURANT IS CLOSED UNTIL END JULY, CONTRADICTING THE NOTICE ABOUT THE PAIRINGS THEY SENT

The Grand on the Beach

18 May:   Antonij Rupert Wines

22 June:   Ernst Gouws & Co

20 July:   Peter Falke

The 3-course food and wine pairing dinner costs R300.  Tel (021) 425-0551

Bosman’s, Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl

27 May:   AA Badenhorst Family Wines with winemaker Adi Badenhorst

10 June:   The House of Krone with winemaker Matthew Krone

22 July:   Glen Carlou with winemaker Arco Laarman

26 August:   Backsberg with winemaker Guillaume Nell

3 September:   Nederburg Auction Pre-dinner with cellarmaster Razvan Macici

28 October:   Raats Family Wines with winemaker Bruwer Raats

The 5-course meal with wine, coffee, canapés and petit fours costs R690.  Tel (021) 863-5100

The Garden Room, Mount Nelson Hotel

29 April:   Vergelegen with winemaker Andre van Rensburg

27 May:   Bouchard Finlayson with winemaker and owner Peter Finlayson

24 June:   Neil Ellis Wines with owner Neil Ellis

29 July:   Groote Post with winemaker Lukas Wentzel

26 August:   Rust en Vrede with winemaker Coenie Snyman

30 September:   Deetlefs with winemaker Willie Stofberg

28 October:   Boschendal with winemaker Lizelle Gerber

15 November:   Moreson with winemaker Clayton Reabow

9 December:   Boekenhoutskloof with winemaker Marc Kent.

The 7-course dinner costs R 395 per person with matching wines.  Tel (021) 483-1000

Chenin Wine Bar and Restaurant

26 May:   Ernie Els Wines

Cost is R 100. Tel (021) 425-2200

Buitenverwachting

28 April: Buitenverwachting winemaker Brad Paton

Cost of the 5-course meal is R460.  Tel (021) 794-3522

Nobu at One&Only Cape Town

29 April:   Stark-Condé Wines

Cost of the 7-course meal is R R480.   Tel (021) 431-5111

What’s On, Watson Street

7 May:   Fleur du Cap winemaker Christoff de Wet

Cost of the 6-course dinner and wines is R300 per person or R500 per couple.  Tel (021) 422-5652

Marika’s, Gardens

9 May:   Mischa and Eventide

6 June:   Barton Wines winemaker JP Geyer

4 July:   Nabygelegen with winemaker James McKenzie

Cost of 5-course dinner and wines is R 200.  Tel (021) 465-2727

1800°C Grill Room, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel

7 May:   Hartenberg Estate

2 June:  Morgenhof

7 July:   Warwick wine estate

4 August: La Motte Wine Estate

Cost of 4-course dinner with welcome drink and wines R335.  Tel (021) 430-0506

Casa Nostra, Sea Point

28 May:   Fairview

2 July:   Klein Constantia

Cost of 4-course meal R230.  Tel (021) 433-0187

Bergkelder, Stellenbosch

30 June:   Fleur du Cap Unfiltered

Cost of 5-course meal, Wine and Flavoured Salt tasting by Craig Cormack of Sofia’s is R400.  Tel (021) 809-8025

French Toast

22 June: L’Avenir Vineyards

6 July:   Constantia Glen

3 August :  Diemersdal

7 September:   Creation Wines

5 October:   Rustenberg Wines

Cost of 3-course Tapas and wine pairing R 220 per person.  Tel (021) 422-3839.

24 August: Overgaauw vintage port pairing (with David van Velden) with food, R80.  Tel (021) 422-3839

Café BonBon, Franschhoek

8 June:  Jacoline Haasbroek from My Wyn

22 June:   Haut Espoir

4-course dinner and wine pairing R195 per person.  Tel (021) 876-3936

La Mouette, Sea Point

8 June:  Arco Laarman from Glen Carlou

4-course French theme dinner R240 per person. Tel (021) 433-0856

Swiss & Austrian Social Club, Sea Point

11 June:   Waverley Hills Organic Wines

5-course dinner paired with five wines R250.  Tel (021) 434-8405

Fork

19 July:   Joubert-Tradauw

9-course emal paired with wines R225.  Tel (021) 424-6334

15 on Orange

21 July:  Warwick wines

6-course meal paired with wines R295.  Tel (021) 469-8000

Knife Restaurant

27 July: Glenwood Wines

4-course meal paired with wines R220.  Tel (021) 551-5000

Warwick Wine Estate

22 and 29 July: 4-course dinner paired with Warwick wines, celebrating Stellenbosch Wine Festival.  R390. Tel (021) 884-4410

The Class Room, Hermanus

12 August: Rust en Vrede

3-course dinner paired with wines R195.  Tel (028) 316-3582

Harvey’s at Winchester Mansions

3 August: Avontuur Wine Estate

5-course dinner paired with 7 Avontuur wines R345. Tel (021) 434-2351

5 October: Luddite

5-course dinner paired with 6 Luddite wines at R345 per person Tel (021) 434-2351

Sinn’s, Wembley Square

25 August: Durbanville Hills with winemaker Wilhelm Coetzee

4-course dinner paired with 4 wines R225.  Tel (021) 465-0967

Pure Restaurant, Hout Bay Manor

24 September:   Groote Post wine estate

5-course dinner paired with wines R 260.  Tel (021) 791-9393

96 Winery Road

28 September:   Van Ryn’s

4-course dinner paired with Van Ryn’s brandy R320.  Tel (021) 842-2020

Cassia Restaurant, Nitida wine estate, Durbanville

30 September:  Nitida wines

4-course dinner paired with Nitida wines R 300.  Tel (021) 976-0640

Bayside Café, Camps Bay

30 September: Beyerskloof Wines

5-course dinner paired with Beyerskloof Wines R 175 per person.  Tel (021) 438-2650

Clos Malverne, Stellenbosch

28 October: Clos Malverne wines

5-course dinner paired with Clos Malverne wines R 445.  Tel (021) 865-2022

La Residence, Franschhoek

18 November: Waterford Wines with winemaker Francois Haasbroek

6-course Dinner paired with Waterford wines R 800.  Tel (021) 876-4100

The Vineyard Hotel

Friday 13 May

Schalk Burger & Sons

Friday 27 May

Warwick & Vilafonté

Friday 10 June

West Coast Wines with Tierhoek

Friday 24 June

Stellakaya with Ntsiki Biyela

Friday 1 July

La Motte

Friday 15 July

Solms Delta Wine Estate

Friday 5 August

Dombeya Wines with Rianie Strydom

Friday 19 August

Catherine Marshall Wines

Friday 2 September

Meerlust Wine Estate

Friday 16 September

Favourites from Wine Concepts

Friday 7 October

Hermanuspietersfontein

Friday 21 October

Wines from the Swartland (Kloovenburg, Babylon’s Peak)

Friday 28 October

Constantia Valley Wines

The dinner costs R 250 per person.  Tel (021) 657-4500.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Franschhoek Uncorked 2010 full of food, wine and fun!

I had not visited Franschhoek for a while, and decided to enjoy a full weekend of the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival,  to get to as many of the 20 wine estates as possible.  My feedback follows, focusing more on the marketing of the estate, its customer care demonstrated, and the food served (I would never have survived full days of wine tasting!):

        Starting at Plaisir de Merle, it was a big disappointment overall.  Given that the Festival was on, one wonders why the boom had to be closed and then opened for each individual car arriving and leaving.  Commendably all other wine estates kept their booms open for the occasion.  The drive up to the wine-tasting buildings is unattractive, with ditches on either side – there is no lane of trees to soften the entrance.  Plaisir de Merle is a Distell-owned wine farm, and supplies most of its grapes for the making of Nederburg, I read over the weekend.  The farm is one of the largest in the Cape, just under 1000 hectares.  We parked and approached the tables at which the tasting was being done and the food was prepared.  Seeing other guests queue, we did too, but the procedure was meant to be that we should have sat down at a table, and waited for a “waiter’ to come to us.  We gave our waiter the order, but he did not understand the word ‘crêpe’, even though it is one of the items on the menu – he asked if I meant a pancake!   We decided to place the order with the food preparers directly, and chose an apple and an orange crêpe.   They were so disappointing compared to the crêpes I have enjoyed here in previous years.   We had to ask for the bill three times, and in the end we could not be bothered, and left the money on the table.  A violinist and flautist provided a lively touch, and the hired staff wore white shirts and black pants, with a branded black beret.  The French theme of Franschhoek came through with three serviettes in red, white and blue on the kitsch silver underplates, which seemed out of place, given the history of the estate.  Bread was for sale, but nothing told one that it was baked with special flour ground in a recently renovated historic water mill.  We left having no knowledge about the wines, but did receive a summary of the wines on request, which had to be printed for us especially, with tasting notes for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Allee Bleue focused its Uncorked activities in its Le Grand Hall, which I had not seen since its completion in March.  It is a modern structure, with an attractive entrance, and glass stacking doors.  It can seat 300 guests, mainly for weddings and product launches, with space for a band stand and dance floor.   The security guard had the boom open, and looked very smart with his Allee Bleue blue bow tie, but spoilt the friendly impression when he answered every question I asked with “yup”!   On seeing us, the Food & Beverage Manager Desmond Spangenberg, one of the friendliest persons in the hospitality industry, walked up to us and welcomed us – you cannot beat such a personal touch!  Immediately he gave us complimentary Uncorked “passports” (Plaisir de Merle did not offer to sell us any!), a glass of the wonderful newly launched Allee Bleue Brut Rose, and their very tasty Flammkuchen, an Austrian speciality much like a thin based pizza covered with ham, cream cheese and onions.  It was far too much to have it all. I was sad to hear that the likeable chef Dane Newton had left.   The friendliness, professionalism and generosity of Allee Bleue was exceptional.

        I was looking forward to the Tasting Masterclass conducted by Graham Beck wine maker Pieter Ferreira, an expert on sparkling wine production.   This estate was by far the busiest and buzziest.  The Masterclass was held in an exclusive tasting room on the first floor, with a boardroom table set up with a Graham Beck branded sheet, which allowed for 8 tasting glasses, and a pairing plate with a slice of ham, smoked Franschhoek trout, camembert and a lovely piece of thick chocolate.   Pieter sharpened our sense of smell by making us sniff at least 20 different wine glasses, with a wide variety of flavours, e.g. vanilla, cloves, fresh strawberries, pepper, and asparagus.  These would be typical elements we should have picked up on the nose of the wines we were to taste.  We tasted 12 Graham Beck wines, and Pieter was a most patient, informative and passionate tasting leader.   He threw in many interesting bits of information:  the size of the glass does not really matter in tasting wines, as long as it is not tulip-shaped; white wine glasses do not have to be smaller than red wine ones; Riedel make 27 different types of glasses, some varietal-specific (Pieter helped them select a design for Pinotage-tasting); one does not have to drink white/red wine with white/red meat; wines should be served as cold as possible, even red wines, 15 – 18 C being ideal for reds; chocolate is a good way to clear the palate; ‘beer pour’ style is the best way to pour sparkling wine, and not into an upright glass, to retain as much of the bubble.  A lovely touch was when I received a bottle of the wonderful Graham Beck Brut Rose as a gift.  The Masterclass cost R75.

 

         I stopped at the new Maison wine estate, the newest Franschhoek wine farm, and expected a Weylandt’s interior, as it belongs to Chris Weylandt.  I was surprised to see a cute cottage, bales of hay on the lawn at which sunseekers were sitting, and a very laid-back atmosphere – even the jazz band had taken some time off.   There were two food choices – a salmon or pork belly sandwich served on a nice wooden board, quite expensive at R 50 each, but the staff assured me that they were fabulous, and the pork belly one was.   It had a lovely “fish sauce” spread on it, with rocket, served on the most wonderful rye bread from Bread & Wine.  Whilst I was catching up on Twitter, Chris Weylandt came over to have a chat, and told me that the Weylandt’s interior will be introduced in the new cellar and restaurant they are opening in the first quarter of 2011.  It will serve ‘real food’, he said.  He is very proud of the great interest shown in his estate, having only opened officially two weeks ago (and is now on Twitter @Maisonestate). Wines offered for sale are Shiraz and Chenin Blanc, as well as a limited edition Viognier.  Chris is proud of the wines made from the estate’s grapes, and that they do not buy in any grapes.  Anton Bondesia is the young winemaker, having worked in Italy, New Zealand, California, and also at Spier.  The Shiraz won the 2009 SA Young Wine Trophy.   Chris Weylandt has lived in the estate for the last six years, in the oldest barn in Franschhoek with “contemporary additions”, he said, built in 1796.  It has been featured in VISI, Elle, and international design magazines.

 

        Grande Provence was quite a contrast, not having pulled in the crowds, and therefore lacking in atmosphere.  A number of winelovers sat at the counter in the tasting room. I met up with the curator of the gallery, Johan du Plessis, and he showed me around the new enlarged gallery, with very interesting works of art.  Donovan Dreyer is another lovely Franschhoek Food & Beverage Manager, and he brought me a dessert creation from Chef Darren Roberts.  The Grande Provence Pinot Noir 2009 was launched for the Uncorked Festival.   Five tasting stations were set up on the estate, with a wine matched to a restaurant speciality (e.g. chicken liver parfait, duck with green olive and date tagine, and gravidlax with apple compote and tapenade), at R 100.  A four course meal was also on offer over the weekend, at R 375, for a Gateaux of duck and rabbit rillettes, hot and sour seafood broth, osso bucco and chocolate calzone, each course paired with a Grande Provence wine.

 

        Boekenhoutskloof  was very quiet at midday on Sunday.  I was interested in going there to enjoy Reuben’s Barbeque Extravaganza, and to catch up with Reuben Riffel before he launches his third Reuben’s restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town in just more than three weeks. He probably committed to the Festival BS (before Sol). Reuben was nowhere to be seen, but his branding was on the braai.  Some of his staff was doing steak sandwiches, the prices of his dishes written on a blackboard looking rather unprofessional – the food preparation section was untidy and did not inspire one to order food.  Empty containers left by departed visitors were left on the table. The band stand was set up, without a band.  Inside, the tasting room was busy, and I had to smile when the sweet tasting lady suggested that I rather buy the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc at Pick ‘n Pay, as it would be cheaper there than on the estate.  Boekenhoutskloof has been one of Franschhoek most  successful wine estates as far as Platter performance goes, for its Boekenhoutskloof Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Chocolate Block, Porcupine Ridge and The Wolftrap are secondary brands.  The massive plastic The Chocolate Block bottle outside the tasting area was the most commercialised I have ever seen the estate, which seems to pride itself on selling its wines in a low key manner, selling itself, so to speak.

       

        My final stop was at La Motte, and I was excited about my visit there, as the new Pierneef Ã  la Motte restaurant, the new tasting room, the new Rupert family museum, art gallery, Pierneef art gallery and the Farm Shop had all opened in the past few days.  I started my visit at the Farm Shop, and saw the loveliest breads (including a shiraz-based one, and some potbrood), as well as shiraz-filled chocolates in the shop. Then it was off to the galleries and museum, a building that leads one from one room to another, with less space dedicated to the Rupert family and its patriarch, the late Anton Rupert, and more to the art.  Quiet corners have been set up dedicated to the music of Hanli Rupert, who is an acclaimed opera singer, and one can choose which of her music one wants to listen to whilst sitting in comfortable chairs.  The art gallery appeared to have more modern art, but the highlight was the section displaying 18 oils and 26 other works by JH Pierneef. La Motte had recently bought the priceless Pierneef art collection from his daughter Marita, who lives in the United Kingdom.  Dr Rupert had bought 3 sets of 120 Pierneef woodcut prints each for his three children, and some of these have been used as an inspiration on the Pierneef wine labels.  They can be seen in the Tasting Room, and in various buildings on the estate.  Hein Koegelenberg, husband of Hanli Rupert, and driver of La Motte, sat with me for half an hour of his precious time, and told me about the dedication of the estate to bring this priceless art treasure back to South Africa.  The Pierneef Collection was not available for tasting over the Uncorked weekend, but will be in future.   The new wine tasting room has allowed La Motte to have two separate wine production sections in its cellar, one for whites (under winemaker Michael Langenhoven, a passionate Sauvignon Blanc lover) and one for red wines (under winemaker Edmund Terblanche, a passionate Shiraz lover).  The tasting room is managed by Werner Briedenhann, and he is passionate about his job – a confident welcome, and a firm handshake.  He explained that one could taste five wines, and these were served with some chocolate and ciabatta to clear the palate.  Long tasting tables show the fun a group of friends can have in enjoying a tasting jointly.   Everything was handled with the greatest professionalism, with only one weakness – the lady at the entrance desk told me that the new La Motte Pierneef Hanli R was made from two blends, which I promptly Tweeted, and was immediately corrected by Hein Koegelenberg on Twitter, in stating that it is made from Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon. La Motte dominated the Franschhoek Uncorked Experience by far this past weekend, with its beautiful new buildings, oak trees, lawns and water features.   This is now a serious wine estate, supported by serious money, but Hanlie and Hein Koegelenberg are very humble, generous and friendly. Our review of Pierneef Ã  La Motte restaurant will be published later this week.

Overall Franschhoek Uncorked is a clever way of attracting visitors to the wine estates of Franschhoek, something the Stellenbosch Wine Festival tried for the first time this year.  However, given the captive audience they have on their estates, it is disappointing that not one of the seven estates I visited made sure that the visitors left with information about their wines, and with a restaurant menu, if applicable, or with a program of events in Franschhoek for the next few months.  The Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism Association had been more active in sending our Tweets about Franschhoek Uncorked, but stopped doing so late on Friday, with no Tweets at all over the weekend, when it was needed most!  It is so easy to pre-schedule Tweets via Hootsuite.  The clashing of the first day of Franschhoek Uncorked with the second day of the Nederburg Auction was unfortunate, and one wonders how Franschhoek could have chosen this weekend to schedule the event.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:   www.whalecottage.com